Yesterday was a pretty exciting day! Guy Fortier, a realtor based out of Saskatoon, hired Anikio to create a virtual tour and take photos for a sprawling, 3600 sqft acreage about 20 km west of Prince Albert. This was Anikio’s first out-of-town shoot. It was the first home above 2000 sqft that we’ve shot. And it was the first time we got to take some aerial photos!
Yes, Anikio has a drone. And a drone license, by the way. You may not have known this, but Dean is actually a private pilot, so navigating a drone is pretty straightforward. The real challenge in Saskatoon is the extremely conservative rules for use ‘around’ an airport. It is certainly possible to have some drone photos taken in city limits with planning and depending on the location, but it’s not a given that it can be done legally. On the other hand, an acreage 20 km from a town or airport? No problem at all! And this acreage really benefited from the aerial photos. There is just no way to capture the grounds and such a large home together otherwise.
One thing we didn’t account for is how much time this would take. The home faces south and is mostly glass, featuring some beautiful views of the pond outside as well as sunlit rooms. This makes for a lot of post-photography work to make sure that we capture those views well, especially in the virtual tour. On top of that, the size of the home required 45 (!) 360 degree photos for the virtual tour. That’s about double what a more typical 1600 sqft home would take. Photos? The same and more. Not to mention the drone photos, which we offered this time for free since Guy has been a great supporter of Anikio. All said and done, it was a learning experience in terms of time requirements for a home this size.
But we’re really happy with the results and it was a lovely day to spend in what felt like a quiet, remote lodge up north. Especially after being cooped up hiding from COVID for some time.
When people are looking for photographers, what’s one thing they want to see? Examples of their work! Our photography work is all over the site, but mixed in with others’ photos (look for the Anikio watermark). Worse, it comes and goes as property is rented and new properties get listed or re-listed. And some of the work we do for real estate agents never sees Anikio.com. The solution was simple… we needed to have a portfolio!
Over the past few days, I’ve been combing through the almost 2000 photos that we’ve taken in the past year. My goal was to narrow it down to 6 photos (because we can fit three nicely sized photos side-by-side on a computer monitor) for each type of room. I also wanted to show some examples of digital staging and some of my hobby photography, too. If you’re going to hire a photographer, they should have some interest in photography outside of work!
Mission accomplished. Our portfolio went live yesterday. Have a look! What I noticed when I was short listing is that I found the majority of the photos I had chosen were from properties with some furniture in them. That isn’t a surprise, we’ve long known the value of staging but it was interesting to see it, unintended, in the results of my own searching! I tried to also include at least one empty room in each just to show that yes, we can do that, too.
I hope this will help convert a few more visitors looking specifically for real estate or rental photography into customers. Ultimately, that should mean more rental listings. Options are getting a little sparse again! Our collective vacancy rate is approximately 4%, so at least we’ve below the 5.7% average in Saskatoon.
When it comes to renting property, there are two things that can turn a good investment bad fastest: inadequate tenant screening and vacancy. A month without rent can easily cost $1000 or more in lost rent. Not only that, there’s also the time and money doing showings, interviews, screening and processing applications. And of course advertising your rental. At Anikio, our mission is to make renting as painless as possible when it comes to finding that tenant. One of the best tools that we have is good photos – they do help find tenants faster. In fact, that’s why we offer rental photography service in the first place! We know it makes a difference and we want the best experience not just for landlords, but also tenants trying to decide where to live.
We’ve seen it time and again with landlords that we work with. One landlord went from little to no interest over a 3-week span to having it rented in just days when we took new photos. Another thought she’d have to reduce the rent due to lack of interest at the price point. After replacing her photos with ours, she had multiple qualified applicants to choose from. But it’s one thing to have stories… we wanted hard data to quantify what we were seeing. We wanted to have an unbiased, data-backed answer for your question: Do good photos find tenants faster? How much faster?
The Experiment – One Property, Two Sets of Photos
So how to get this data? The key to any experiment is to isolate the variable, in this case, the quality of the photos, while keep everything else the same. So, we need to list the exact same property at the same time with the only difference being the photos. Thanks to our advanced searching capabilities, it’s too likely that on Anikio both properties would show up side by side (which might spoil the experiment). So we used an online listing site notorious for re-posts and burying listings quickly. One listing used photos taken by us. The other listing used photos that are typical of what we see in the marketplace today, taken by cell phone.
In the interest of full disclosure, we did also have to vary the title enough to ensure people wouldn’t know it was the same listing with a different photo (and thus choose not to open the second listing they saw). But to minimize the impact of that variable, we used the same words in both titles, just in a different order. Stonebridge Townhouse – 3 Bedroom vs. 3-Bed Townhouse in Stonebridge. Both posts were made the same day only a couple hours apart from different accounts to also minimize any variation for timing by day of week or week of year. Here is the day-by-day comparison with screenshots and analysis. Or if you don’t have time, you can skip right to the conclusion.
Day 1: Anikio Photos Take An Early Lead
Less than 24 hours in, we’re already several pages deep – a problem common to traditional listing sites. But the professional photos are off to a good start with almost twice as many views. Do good photos find tenants faster? So far, yes they sure do! It’s also worth noting that the ad directs users to Anikio to take a virtual tour and contact the landlord there, so we can count these replies as people that haven’t read the ad before reaching out. As well, a low number of replies may speak to other factors beyond the photos, so for those two reasons we’re not focused on that as a metric for the photography here.
One other note. We almost always advocate not to use the exterior photo as the feature photo (or thumbnail). Especially for apartments. We made an exception with this property for a couple reasons: First of all, the exterior photo is gorgeous. From the little Christmas tree to the dusk sky and warm lighting, the exterior does more than just show a building, it shows a home. The warm lighting and night sky trigger an innate response to our need for shelter. Secondly, we digitally staged an interior photo showing the living and dining room and kitchen, which would be our first choice for the feature photo. But it didn’t feel like a fair comparison to put up a fully staged AND professional photo against the landlord photo here. It would be a second variable.
Rest assured, we’ll be testing the difference of using an exterior vs interior photo soon. And the difference digital staging makes (about 73% according to one study). Oh, we’re going to have fun!
Photo Comparison Results – Day 1
Day 2: Results Stabilizing
The Anikio photos continue to maintain a healthy lead for professional photos but of course as the listings continue to get buried deeper down (already on page 19!) there are fewer views every day. Where the professional photo listing had a 97% lead in Day 1, that difference has averaged down to 75%. Somewhere between 2/3 – 3/4 is what we would have guessed as a difference the photos make, so it is nice to have our intuition validated.
On the other hand, while the purpose of this test is to talk about photos, we can’t help but point out that thanks to how fast the listings are buried, on Day 2 we only see 38-43% as many views as on Day 1. We’ll keep track of this also going forward.
Photo Comparison Results – Day 2
Day 3: Differential Growing Again in Favour of Professional Photos
While we expected the drop from Day 1’s 97% increase in views for professional photos, what we didn’t expect is a bounce back upwards. But day 3, we did see movement as the professional Anikio photos took an 81% increase in views over the three days. On the views standpoint, that’s only 9 more views for the professional photos and 3 more for the standard ones, so the difference is more pronounced but the numbers are small. We only have 8-13% of the views we got on Day 1.
Day 4: Back to the 90’s
Again the differential is creeping back up towards the differential we saw on day 1. As we dive into the numbers, it’s worth stepping back for a second. Consider how significant a 90% increase in views can be for a landlord. Almost twice as many people. Almost twice as many chances that you not only find a tenant but find a good tenant that will want to stay for a long time. Less risk of choosing someone your gut says no to because you don’t want to miss out on another month’s rent. And less pressure psychologically to reduce the rent unnecessarily. As for views, we’re 4 days in and on page 25 now.
Day 5: Standard Photos Finally Get As Many Views as Professional Photos Had Day 1
The title says it all. Day 5, the standard photo listing views has just crossed the number of views we saw Day 1 with the Anikio photos. Wow! While we’re seeing twice as many views, we’re seeing if, for example, viewer number 65 was the future tenant in both listings, we got to her 5 days sooner with better photos. Do good photos find tenants faster? Five days later, the answer is an even more responding yes.We’re going to skip Day 6 here and go right to Day 7 – one week in – for our conclusion.
Conclusion – Professional Photos Make a Huge Difference!
You may not be surprised to find that more people looked at the property with nice photos. However, you may be surprised – as we were – to see how much of a difference it made. Nearly twice as many views over the course of a week! Do good photos find tenants faster? Yes, about twice as fast by that metric. Here’s another metric – it took 5 days for the standard photos to have as many views as we got day 1 with the professional photos. Looking at things that way, it could be argued that good photos find a tenant about 5 times faster.
What About Replies?
I said earlier that we aren’t using replies as a way to measure results. The quantity of replies may have more to do with non-photo factors such as the price vs. offering, market conditions, etc. Also, since we also wanted this test to benefit our landlord (this is a real, live property), we directed users on the listing with the professional photos to take the virtual tour and contact the landlord via Anikio. Since the standard photos didn’t show the property in its best light (literally), we didn’t include that message on that listing but decided to handle any replies personally. So quantity of replies, not relevant.
But the difference in quantity between the two? Absolutely relevant since regardless of those other factors, the only real difference between the two listings is the photos. Especially since we redirected the professional photo inquiries elsewhere, skewing the results in favour of standard photos. This test showed 5 times more responses in the same amount of time. We still ended up with 5 replies for professional (plus an untold more that went on to contact the landlord via Anikio) vs. 1 reply for the standard photos. And the only reply for the standard photos was from someone interested in using the home as a cannabis grow-op. Really!
Why More Replies with Professional Photos?
Photos affect the perceived value of the property and also the landlord’s pride of ownership. $1800 is a fair price for this rental regardless of photos. But more people felt the property with good photos looked worth $1800 rent. And THAT is how photos can also make a difference in how much a property rents for. If, as is the case here, nobody serious contacts the landlord with the standard photos, they may unnecessarily reduce their rent to attract more interest. Let’s say after one more week, putting us at Dec 2, the landlord with the standard photos lowers the rent $100 to get some interest. They also missed getting a tenant for November, which costs them $1800. So total cost for using poor photos assuming a one-year tenancy? $3000! Plus $1200/year every year after that it rents at the reduced rate. Total cost for photos on this property? $180. The photos paid for themselves in less than 2 months.
Don’t Just Take Our Word For It
Besides this test, we have plenty of experience seeing the difference that good photos make. There’s also plenty of evidence from the world of real estate sales to lean on. Analysis from VHT Studios found that in the real estate world, homes with high quality photography sell 32 percent faster thanks to not only getting more attention but also to higher perceived value reducing haggling and pressure on the home owner to reduce price due to lack of interest. We had a more dramatic result, because decisions on renting are made much faster than purchasing. Not only that, but homes with more photos sell faster, too. A home with one photo spends almost twice as long on the market as a home with 20 photos. And here’s maybe the most important one to consider: homes that include high-quality photography in their listings sell for $3,000-$11,000 more.
The Same Home with Better Photos Sells for More???
Think about that. The same home with better photos sells for a higher price. Doesn’t seem logical, does it? After all, you don’t live in the photos once you purchase the place! But the same is true for rental property, just at a different scale. The same home with better photos rents for a higher price. Why?
The perceived value from the tenant is higher. So the property attracts people willing or able to pay a higher amount for their housing out of the gate.
Less pressure on the landlord. A property with lots of interest is less likely to have the asking rent reduced or rental incentives added
We’ve all been there, especially with the high vacancy rates of the past few years. When it’s hard to find tenants, the first question landlords ask themselves is: “Should I lower the rent?” Dropping the rent $100/month unnecessarily costs $1200 in lost revenue assuming a one-year tenancy – more for a longer term tenant. On the other hand, hiring Anikio or another professional to take great photos generally costs about 10x less than that! And when the tenant moves out, you can use those photos again, compunding your savings.
Book Your Photos Now
Professional photos are an investment in the success of your property. Like any investment, it’s important to ask what the return is. This testing shows that there is a high likelihood that your property will generate more interest.
You will find a tenant faster by simple virtue of being seen by more potential candidates in a shorter amount of time. We had to wait 5 days to get as many views with the standard photos as we got in 1 day with professional photos. We got at least 5x more replies. That gives a better chance of minimizing vacancy.
Thanks to more interest, you’ll be under less pressure to accept an under-qualified applicant. You may save a month or more of vacancy and be less likely to unnecessarily lower the rent. And you can use the photos again and again until you make a significant change to the property, so these advantages go forward year after year.
When it comes to marketing your property, nothing makes a bigger impact on the first impression than the visuals you use in your listing. Photos, videos, and even virtual tours can mean the different between finding a good tenant right away or having a vacant property for 1-2 months. Anikio offers professional photography and virtual tours, but whether you’re planning to shoot your own photos or use a professional, here are some things that will make sure you get the best results possible before you take off that lens cap:
Preparing Your Property
Fix/Patch – Good photos should last you through many tenants. Make sure that suite repairs, patches, and fixes are done. Just like you’re looking for a reliable tenant that will pay on time, tenants want reliable landlords that make repairs promptly. Photos of walls (or doors) with holes, cupboards missing doors, or half-completed renovations don’t give a good impression even if you are in the middle of repairing them.
Don’t Forget Outside – It’s always a good idea to have at least one exterior photo. Make sure the yard, deck, and porch are in good condition (grass cut, snow shoveled, garbage bins tucked away).
Replace Burned-Out Bulbs – Now that your place is patched and fixed, don’t forget to make sure that all your bulbs are installed and working. When you take a picture, what you’re really doing is capturing light from the scene. Less light, less great of a photo. And again, it speaks to how well the property is maintained. Try to keep all the same colour temperature (also called warmth) in one room. Daylight photographs best in rooms with windows.
Put Stuff Away – Loose items like vacuum cleaner hoses, rags, things left behind from the previous tenant, etc. should be neatly put away in their usual storage place. This will save you having professional photos shot only to find a dirty rag sitting on top of your washer/dryer.
Clean – Hopefully the suite was cleaned when the previous tenants left, but if they missed a few things (or you made some dust in the previous three steps) take the time to clean up floors, baseboards, etc. and make everything look its best. Again, it’s a bit of pain now for photos that can last many years.
Lights! Get all the lights on, even the ones in adjacent rooms, on the porch, etc. Light makes your place feel more warm and welcoming but it also makes your photo results better. Cameras adjust to low light by a combination of leaving the shutter open longer or increasing the ISO. The longer the shutter is open, the more likely the image will be blurry from your hand shaking. This can be combatted by using a tripod. As for increasing the ISO, what this really means is a more grainy and less clear photo. The smaller the camera (for example if you’re using your phone) the less it is able to deal with low light.
Blinds! Open all the blinds. Again, you want to let in as much light as possible for your photo. This part can be a bit tricky, though. If you are shooting a scene with open blinds and the sun streaming in, the camera can think the picture is too bright and make everything dark inside so that the scene outside the window is exposed correctly. On most cameras you can adjust the exposure (for example, on an iPhone, click the light icon on the yellow box and drag up to brighten the image) so that the inside is exposed correctly. This may result in a very white/bright window. Optionally, try to shoot with your back to the window to use all that light to your advantage, or if you have a HDR-capable camera (and tripod!) you may be able to get several photos of the same scene at different exposures and put them together to better replicate the dynamic range (from darkest to brightest) that the human eye can resolve.
Camera! Modern phones have better and better cameras and AI all the time. These days, with enough light, you can get perfectly acceptable photos with a phone camera and occasional use of the panorama feature. However, nothing beats a nice big wide-angle lens on an SLR camera for collecting more light in the same scene. And don’t forget about a tripod for sharp, clear, low-noise photos in even dark rooms. As mentioned above, the tripod is also critical for shooting HDR photos that extend the range between the blackest black and whitest white to allow more of the image to shine through.
Action! Where possible, try to take your photos in landscape (wide) format instead of tall. This shows a more natural view of how people see the world and gives more of a sense of seeing a complete picture. Portrait (tall) photos are useful in small spaces but when used in large rooms, they can make it look like you’re trying to hide something. Photos look best on Anikio when they are cropped to a 16×9 widescreen format, but standard straight-out-of camera photos will work with no cropping also. If you know a bit about photography, you may also wish to do some post-processing of the photos, making sure the white balance is accurate, putting together your HDR photos and panoramas, and double-checking that the photos look as good and as accurate as possible.